Happisburgh preacher receives Maundy Money from the Queen

Ray Sanders with his wife Margaret. Picture: Maurice Gray.

Ray Sanders with his wife Margaret. Picture: Maurice Gray. - Credit: Maurice Gray.

Every year Her Majesty presents special 'Maundy Money' to local pensioners in a UK Cathedral or Abbey as recognition of the service of elderly people to their community and their church, which takes place on 'Maundy Thursday', the day before Good Friday, writes MAURICE GRAY.

Each year the selection is coordinated by the Diocese, the Regional Church of England Authority and the Royal Maundy Service and used to take place in London, but very early in Her Majesty's reign, it was decided that the service should take place at a different venue each year.

Ray Saunders, of Happisburgh, was one who was selected to receive the 'Maundy' coins, and, with his wife Margaret was invited to Windsor to collect the special gift from the Queen, in person.

Her Majesty has distributed 'Maundy Money' on all but four occasions since coming to the throne in 1952.

A number of coins handed out to selected people relate to the Sovereign's age and as she celebrates her 90th birthday this year, there will be 90 silver coins presented to the nominees.

Unfortunately, Mr Sanders was in hospital and feeling pretty poorly when the invitation was sent to him, in fact, he was destined to stay at another hospital for three weeks to recover from intensive treatment, for convalescents.

Mr Sanders, 89, was determined to take up the invitation from Her Majesty although the hospital advised against such a trip. He said: 'I was determined to go as I felt so privileged but I wouldn't be able to drive all the way to Windsor or even use public transport.'

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He added: 'My wife, Margaret, has supported me over the years and we felt so proud to have been selected.'

However, close friends Tony and Tanya Williams got into gear and offered to take them to Windsor and back, for which the Sanders were truly grateful. The long journey to St George's Chapel in Windsor 'paid dividends' in the shape of Maundy coins which Her Majesty presented to Mr Sanders.

Mr Sanders was born and lived in Norwich and joined the Choir at St Mary's Church Earlham when he was eight-years-old. He joined the Navy at 18 as an Electrical Engineer. After he left the Forces, he met Margaret who became his wife in 1952. They had two boys who eventually studied at Oxford, followed with careers in teaching and accountancy. They also have four granddaughters.

The family eventually moved to Happisburgh and Mr Sanders has supported the Church of England as a Lay Preacher, for more than 60 years and his devotion was recognised by the Bishop of Norwich, The Right Reverend Graham James.

Ray said: 'The Queen is fantastic and gave me a lovely smile which I will never forget'.